LOVELAND, Colo. – In the grueling gauntlet of the Pacific Division in the 2021-2022 season, this #3 vs. #6 matchup features two of the hottest teams in the division on a collision course with one another. The Colorado Eagles come into this series winning seven of their last ten games, while the Henderson Silver Knights have won eight of their last ten.
These two teams battled it out during the regular season, with a slight advantage to Henderson, giving the impression that this quick three-game first-round series could go in either direction. Can either team gain an edge on the other, or will this one be going down to the wire?
Final Regular Season Records:
Game 1 – Wednesday, May 4 – Henderson at COLORADO – 7:05 pm MST
Game 2 – Friday, May 6 – Henderson at COLORADO – 7:05 MST
Game 3* – Saturday, May 7 – Henderson at COLORADO – 7:05 MST
Season Series Recap:
Despite being the lower seed, Henderson took the series by a 5-3 record over their eight games played. That being said, the Silver Knights took two of those games by way of the shootout – a factor that will be completely meaningless in this postseason series. The Eagles slightly outscored the Silver Knights in regulation by a 25-23 count over their season series, with five of those eight games decided by a single goal.
Colorado goaltender Justus Annunen recorded a 2-1-1 record against Henderson, including the only shutout of the season series, while his Henderson counterpart Logan Thompson went 3-1 before his callup to the Vegas Golden Knights for the latter half of the season.
How Colorado Wins:
Pour it on: The Colorado Eagles were second in the Pacific Division in goals scored, even surpassing the #1 seed Stockton Heat in bulging the twine. Leading the charge is Kiefer Sherwood, named to the second AHL All-Star team with 75 points in 57 games, and Jordan Gross – first-team AHL All-Star with 65 points in 61 games from the blueline. Dylan Sikura‘s 73 points round out the Eagles’ three-headed monster, but that’s not to discredit depth scoring from players like Mikhail Maltsev and Martin Kaut.
Offensively, the Silver Knights don’t match up. The Eagles put up 35 more goals and gave up only four more than Henderson in the same amount of games played. In a series where one small mistake could mean the end of your season with only three games played at a maximum, the Eagles cannot waste any time in opening up the ice, using their speed down the wings to open up the passing lanes and get pucks onto the nets early and often. They can’t let Henderson try and slow down the pace with the dump and chase game – they need to pour the offense on to try and blow the door down.
Over their last ten games, the Eagles scored four or more goals seven times. Their sticks are red hot, and if they get going early, they should be able to close this one out quickly.
How Henderson Wins:
The Silver Knights might not have the star power that the Eagles do to fill the nets up, but they have an X-factor coming back from Vegas that can swing this short series into their favor: goaltender Logan Thompson. Thompson was incredible for the Golden Knights down the stretch as they desperately tried to sneak into the NHL playoff picture, going 10-5-3 with a 2.68 GAA and .914 save percentage in that time. With Vegas failing to make the postseason, Thompson will be returning to Henderson with a renewed confidence and a hunger to compete and battle in the playoffs.
Anyone familiar with postseason hockey will tell you that your goaltender has to be your best player to advance, and with only three games to play, the age-old adage must ring true for Henderson to advance. Thompson has the pedigree and talent, and now he has the NHL experience that can carry over to success in the AHL playoffs. Now the question remains – can they get it done? In a season series that was so tightly contested between both teams, the hot goaltender can be all the difference. Annunen has been great for the Eagles all season, but Thompson has the potential to steal the series.
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